Woman Sues City of Tulsa For Cutting Down Her Edible Garden

Apparently many city officials around this great country of ours have not got the memo that a garden can be a lot more than just a lawn and petunias. I certainly hope that the gardener in question, Denise Morrison, will prevail.

ETA 5/20/15: Following up, we learned that she was not successful in her suit.

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  1. Around here, some people have been issued citations for having their lawn exceed two inches in height. Not everything needs to be a golf course, people!

  2. Outrageous! I cannot believe not one of the city workers even bothered to confirm that any of the plants were indeed edibles. I am usually not a proponent of lawsuits, but Ms. Morrison unjustly lost something precious to her (and really, to all of us.). I’m hoping this works out in her favor. Thanks for sharing.

  3. How tragic! That one “before and “after ” picture made me hurt for her. The city here deems it necessary to cut back my white wisteria that hangs a bit over the retaining wall every year, JUST before it blooms.

    Lots of beautiful, purely ornamental flowers are over 12″ tall. My iris, hosta, and daylily would have to go, among other things. I wonder if the person who wrote the code has no flowers or experience with flowers.

  4. So do I. But this can happen to any of us who live near any city employee who decides he doesn’t like what we do with our property. I live next to one such employee who likes to kill everything except grass and has installed a tall wooden fence down our mutual property line so he doesn’t have to see our “big bushes” (i.e., tomato, cucumber,and other food plants as well as sunflowers, etc in season). He also offers to get someone to fix traffic tickets for people in the neighborhood whom he likes, so he at least believes he is in a position to do as he likes in a corrupt city government. I fear he will create a problem like this for us someday soon, as I’ve heard him drive by loudly proclaiming to someone in his vehicle about how much he dislikes our “big bushes” in the middle of the growing season. And we still have more lawn than garden–and our garden is well-kept. Who is there to protect us from someone like that?

    • If the worst came and if he were hungry, he would probably confiscate the fruits of your bushes for the “city.” I doubt that he would demand you cut them down. He might put a big gate in his fence to access your property and raid your “bushes!”

  5. Based on what the video says, if the code document is specific about the items, and she has photos, I hope she wins, and gets enough money that all officials involved get the message.

    It sounds like there was more going on here than some mint in the yard.

  6. It seems to me she should be able to take the city to small claims court for the loss of her food supply. As she has pictures, she could probably document the dollar value of the plants they destroyed. It is as if someone came into your home and stole the contents of your refrigerator.

  7. Bob Waldrop in Oklahoma City has a similar problem. He is a permaculturist and a vocal opponent of OKC’s leaders as they push to reduce infrastructure for the poor and working class in order to promote the gentrification of the downtown area. In the forward to several of his blog posts, he has made the comment that what he is about to write will certainly bring the code enforcers to his door. It always does.

  8. There was a problem with one of the schools I worked on, a High school, the VP operations or something like that thought it was all weeds but it was a series of different climate appropriate gardens and vegetable beds, they wanted to rip it out. until someone pointed out that it is an actual garden that is constantly in use.

    It’s quite frustrating to know that people still think a garden consists of a handful of plant types all pruned into meatballs and boxes.

  9. This is just another example of a governing body wanting everything their way and to heck with what anyone else wants. I am so sorry for this woman. Neighborhood covenants are way beyond fair and have too much power also.

  10. I hope she wins, and sues for not only money,but for a reasonable equivalent of the food she had stolen from her. I’d think it’d be even funnier if she could get the judge to force the city into planting and maintaining edibles on city property.

  11. I don’t normally comment on such posts, but this is a frightening outrage on many, many levels!!! This woman was working hard, doing what she could to provide for herself in hard times! Her edible gardens should have been, could have been used as an example as to what people can do in these struggling times, just like the ”Victory Gardens” circa WWII.

    And not only did she lose money, but lots and lots of time and hard work, plus the joy of watching it all grow, and a sense of satisfaction, saying, ”yes, today I can eat and help myself promote better health”.

    This touches a big nerve, because as and ‘unemployed’, ‘uninsured’ single woman, I am doing my best to help myself…. I am in a similar situation, no direct complaints from officials, for which I am grateful, but I am depending on my ‘village garden’ to sustain me now and through most of the winter!! I forage for dandelion and plantain greens in my yard as well. (they are delicious btw).

    Everyone should be able to try to help themselves!!! These actions were criminal, invasive, and maliciously destructive…. My heart goes out to you Denise!!! Do not lose faith, do not give up! <3

  12. She needs to get a petition going with either Credo or Change.org and let her voice be echoed by the thousands who would support her position and have it to take to court with her.

  13. Terrible! It looks so much worse after, too so what was the point? If people didn’t like the look of it before are they going to like the look of it all destroyed?

  14. She read the rules, abided by them, tried to use the justice system, yet the city went against the judge and cut down her garden.

    I suspect large food companies might not want their customers to start growing edibles, and pharma might take a big hit if people started eating healthier and using traditional herbal treatments for minor conditions.

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